Drones, the latest GPs driverless tractorand the biggest state-of-the-art combine harvester are not your usual featuresin a school day out. But this was no ordinary day out for 4000 of the countysprimary school pupils, this was the new look School Farm and Country Fair runby the Suffolk Agricultural Association at Trinity Park.
Now in its 14th year, the day,bathed in glorious sunshine, had plenty to excite the 7-9 year olds aboutadvances in food and farming. It provided them with the opportunity to gettheir hands very dirty in pursuit of knowledge. The youngsters from 103 schoolsground grains of rapeseed to produce oil and wheat to make flour, kneadeddough, composted, discovered how vegetables grow in the ground, how they tastewhen raw and then cooked up tasty dishes to sample. They made sausages, applecrumble, were enthralled to see a cow milked, watch the Carrot Show, learnedthe value of recycling, watched as sugar beet turned to powder to make theicing they used on a cake. They stroked animals, met the new jersey calf, heldtiny chicks and ducks and saw fleece skilfully shorn from sheep.
Outside in the new History Zone methods offarming from years gone by featuring Suffolk Horses were explained before thechildren moved forward several centuries to the Modern Farming Zone. This newarea revealed the effects of developments in technology in farming over theyears. A state of the art combine harvester moved across the field, new droneswere in action detecting weeds and crop ravaged areas. The driverless tractorthat moved using GPS technology amazed them. Even the farmers ambulance TheEast Anglian Air Ambulance landed in the Safety Zone, joining DHLs lorriesthat transport much of the grain within the country, and the police, alldemonstrating how the rural community works together.
This year, following discussions withteachers and exhibitors, the route around the site had been redesigned to bemore compact, minimising the journey between each of the nine Zones, allowingmore time for hands-on interactivity in each area and for the introduction ofstatic and moving machinery.
Its a great day for us to help childrenunderstand the importance and significance of food and farming, how it affectstheir lives and why we farm as we do, as well as all the other areas thatagriculture impacts on, said SFCF chairman John Taylor. Our task is to helpthem learn so they are equipped to make key decisions about food, health,nutrition and even their future careers. We have simplified the messages, bylinking key areas and exhibitors together so if a school is working on projectsin specific areas they can visit that Zone and find all the relevant people totalk to and look at it in a bit more depth.
Support from agricultural and foodbusinesses has continued to increase. There are now more than 90 exhibitors,including 10 new ones which also gives the children a chance to talk aboutcareers, although at this stage that is quite a way off for them, but theopportunity is there, he said.
Evidence of the significance and importanceof this day is demonstrated by the increased sponsorship of this event whichincludes at least 20 other local businesses, said John. The Felix ThornleyCobbold Agricultural Trust, Chadacre Agricultural Trust and The MorleyAgricultural Foundation have generously supported this event from the outset,but it is marvellous to have support from Healthy Ambitions and EDGE – Apprenticeships in Food and Farming.Theother vital aspect of the day is helping to build and develop relationshipsbetween schools and the farmers local to their areas. We try and link each oneof the 200 volunteer stewards to their nearest school for mutual futurebenefit, said John.